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Whatever it Takes

It's not about pain avoidance.

Genesis 41:1–8 (ESV)

After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.

Joseph has been in prison two whole years. The New Kings James says, “At the end of two full years,” which is closer to what the Hebrew literally says. This clarification is necessary because of an important Hebrew idiom. If the text had just said, “two years,” it could have just been parts of two calendar years – possibly a couple of months. But two whole years means 24 months—a long time to wait in a “pit” with absolutely zero progress towards one’s destiny. God disciplines his servants!

This Hebrew idiom is also important for another reason. It’s the key to understanding Matthew 12:40 and Mark 9:31.

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. — Matthew 12:40

for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” — Mark 9:31

Friday afternoon to Sunday before dawn is about a day and a half—nowhere close to three days and three nights (using literal English).

But back then, “days and nights” was just a reference to calendar days, with each day starting at sundown. Jesus died Friday afternoon and rose early on the first day of the week—Sunday.

That’s “three days and three nights” to a first century Jew.

The Bible doesn’t detail Joseph’s two year stint in prison. It doesn’t say what happened or what he learned. It merely says it was two whole years. This highlights Joseph’s suffering. It was a lot—beyond what most of us can imagine. The point is that God’s agenda is the absolute priority. Two years of suffering is a lot but, hey, whatever it takes.

The cross is another example of “whatever it takes.” Jesus’ suffering is beyond our imagination, but pain avoidance just isn’t God’s thing, even for Himself. It’s puzzling sometimes, but glorious always.

Praise God for His ways.

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These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. Saturdays' by Matt Richardson. Subscribe here:

The weekly study guides, which include questions for discussion or meditation, are here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NASB stands for the New American Standard Bible. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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